Support an Author, Support a Business

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Originally posted on Author Mysti Parker:

Being an author is a difficult and often lonely business. Yes, I said business, because soon as we put something out there for retail sale, we’ve officially evolved from hobby to business. The vast majority of us are indie authors, whether self-published, small press-published, or freelance, which means support in terms of both financial and word-of-mouth is vital. Without the six figure backing of  a “big six” publisher, we are small business owners, just like the guy who owns the diner down the street or the woman who owns the consignment shop or the friend who sells Avon. Quotation-Georgia-Whybird-sadness-Meetville-Quotes-224378

Often our efforts to spread the word and sell our product fall on deaf ears, lost in the crowd of the millions of other authors out there trying to do the same. Many times, support can feel very one-sided, particularly when we have done a great deal to support family and friends in…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1I want to start off by apologizing for not posting a tip last Tuesday. I should have had something prepared in advance since I knew the con was that weekend, but it was just such a busy week. I’d rather miss a post than publish a half-baked one. So here is last Tuesday’s tip today.

Let’s take a look at setting. “Look” is only one of the five senses we’ll be using to describe the world your character lives in.

What Should you Describe?

When introducing your readers to your world, it helps to think of the five senses and the 5 W’s.

Who: This is your character. How does your setting relate to them? Is this their home? What do they notice about their setting?

What: What does it look like? What landmarks, features, buildings, exist in this landscape? What items are important to your setting: a chipped coffee mug? A stack of books? A photograph?

When: This could be the year, season, time of day,etc. You always want to establish this early on.

Where: Does your novel take place in Colorado? Another galaxy? New Zealand? Psuedo-New Zealand?

Why: Why did you choose this place? Is the sunny east coast or an isolated mountain village the best setting for your novel?

Five Senses: Use your sensory details. But remember, the sights, smells, and sounds should be coming from your POV, not you. If your character is deaf, do not describe the sounds of a busy city. If your character is a child, don’t point out things that would not be at their eye level. Also don’t describe something as being soft or hard until your character has touched it. Describe things as they encounter them.

Info Dumping

Often, especially with new writers, descriptions of scenery are dumped into one paragraph like a dump truck unloading dirt. It might be tempting to tell your readers everything you know about your setting, but this is called info dumping. Instead of enhancing the plot, the scenery slows down the action, bores the reader, or distracts from the character or plot. Avoid info dumps at all cost.

  • Only describe what the reader has to know to understand the setting.
  • If your descriptions are a block of text or a paragraph, this is probably an info dump. Cut what you don’t need or spread out your description throughout the narration, so that there is something separating it. Describe the setting while your character moves throughout the world so your setting doesn’t stop the plot but flows with it.

Things to Avoid

  • Info dumping. See above.
  • Remember to describe the setting from the character’s perspective. What would they notice? A major pet peeve of mine is when authors describe the scenery as being “exotic” from their character’s POV. Don’t describe your world as being exotic if it isn’t for them. What you want your reader to find unusual (double moons, red lakes, man-eating trees, giant cats) will be common place to your character. You don’t need to force the image down your readers’ throats like a funnel at a frat party. A sky with two moons hovering over a red sea will sound unusual enough without your character pointing it out as being strange.
  • Not enough setting. Yes, it’s true. While a majority of writers seem to suffer from info dumping, there are those whose characters are floating in space. I recently read a sample of a book where I could not get a grasp of where the characters were.
  • Don’t overdue it. Have you ever red a book where the character seems to have control over the weather? It doesn’t always have to rain when the character is sad or storm during a battle. On the contrary, say you were writing a story about a missing person. They find the body on a sunny Easter morning. It may be more eerie to find a body on a sunny day rather than a rainy one. This also adds realism.
  • Do not start your story with a sunrise or sunset–unless this is an important image that has something to do with your plot. I once checked out three books from the library that all began with the rising of the sun. Not only is this overdone, but it’s often an unnecessary detail. If the sunrise is an important part of your setting, put it in, but try to avoid starting your book this way.

Creating Your Own World

If there is one reason I don’t believe in a god it’s because of this: No one can make a world in seven days. It’s taken me a year to fully develop my own. If you’re setting takes place in a real place, my suggestion to you would be to go there–especially if it’s somewhere tropical like Hawaii. For those of you creating your own world, you have a lot more planning to do.

  • Make it believable. Understand the laws of nature and science. Say your characters land on a planet with no oxygen. What does a planet without oxygen look like? What are the effects of metal when exposed to low levels of oxygen? What about the opposite? Your characters live on a planet with higher levels of oxygen. Not only would they have more energy than we do, but they would also have very large bugs. Research, research, research.
  • Create a world that enhances your plot. Don’t create a boring environment that will stunt your story. Make it vivid. Create a landscape that challenges your protagonist. Your character has been exiled from his tropical kingdom. On his journey to a new home, make him walk across a desert or a frozen tundra instead of a lush, green valley.

Plan your setting like you would your characters and your plot. Make it vivid, make it believable, but most of all, make it the way you want it.

Who is the better Writer?

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untitledI love Pub-talk; it’s my favorite part of the bar experience. Usually I’m the DD, so I spend more time talking than drinking.

Saturday, I had a great literary conversation while sharing a drink with my sister. I only had one drink, mind you; I would hate to get a DUI while dressed as an elf. After the con, there was an after party at Cook McDoogles, which is an Irish pub in my city’s downtown. My sister and I were talking with two brothers, attendees of the con, when one of them asked an interesting question. Who is the better writer: J.R.R Tolkien or George R. R. Martin?

My initial instinct was to blurt out Tolkien. His books are classics and he’s practically the father of fantasy; however, this does not make him a perfect writer. His writing suffers from info dumping, plot holes, and plot-stopping scenes and characters. That doesn’t mean I’m naming George the winner. He has his fair share of faults as well: A first chapter that doesn’t establish the main conflict, no clear main protagonist, and the overuse of dream sequences. I think I’ll save my opinions for a later post. I want to hear from you. Who do you prefer?

From Chic to Geek: Nerd’n It Up At Kokomo Con

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Connecting at Kokomo-Com

Connecting at Kokomo-Con

One hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf, and Saturday was a mere blink for me. I’m so sad Kokomo-Con is over. If you follow my blog, my sister’s blog, her twitter account or my twitter account, you know we’re a little crazy about The Hobbit. If you saw us at Kokomo-Con, you might just think we’re plain crazy.

How to do like my Pace face?

How do you  like my Pace face?

This was our first, and hopefully not our last, cosplay. I was the King of Mirkwood, Thranduil; my sister was Tauriel; and my son was Legolas. In preparation for this event, we ordered costumes, painted latex ears, watched makeup tutorials, and made a crown out of wire and hot glue–it was actually very simple to make believe it or not.

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My sister getting into character

I think we looked a lot like the characters from Peter Jackson’s adaptation–good enough to be stunt doubles perhaps. Personally, not only was I a convincing Thranduil, but I think I was a rather convincing man. I had a few people tell me I looked like Lee Pace. What do you think? And kudos to my sister, working that red hair. Not to mention my son who was the cutest little Legolas ever!

Kokomo-Con was a lot of fun, which is a gross understatement. There were some great vendors, artist, special guest, events, and, of course, excellent costumes. We were the only ones from Middle Earth, but there were plenty of people from the Star Wars and Marvel universe. Not to mention a few Disney Princesses.

The King of Mirkwood with the Queen of Ice and Snow

The King of Mirkwood with the Queen of Ice and Snow

For those of you who follow my blog for writing content, you might ask, what does this have to do with writing? To be honest, part of the reason we went to the con was to check it out as a possible marketing opportunity. Several of the vendors were selling comic books, paintings, and other media comparable to novels. Booth rental at this event is surprisingly affordable, and with more than 1,500 people walking through the doors, this seems like a great opportunity to make a few sales or at least gain some exposure with our target audience.

storm trooperI think a comic-con is a great place for fantasy writers to connect with potential readers. Fantasy fans travel for miles to shop the booths or dress up as their favorite characters. I think it’s safe to assume someone dressed as Harry Potter or Legolas would be a possible reader. Check to see if you have a local con in your hometown. My sister and I gained several twitter followers from the event. Who knows, they could be future readers. Her book is scheduled to debut this January, so we’ll probably rent a booth at Kokomo-Con 2015. I can’t wait.

Captain of the Guard with  Captain Jack

Captain of the Guard with Captain Jack

So who did we meet at Kokomo-Con? Well, I bumped into a surprising number of people I already knew–that I recognized anyway. I met a few fans of The Hobbit trilogy. Apparently they do exist. I met Darth Vader, Obi wan, Elsa, Merida, Beast (two of them), and Gambit.

Winners of Best Group

Winners of Best Group

Aside from gaining some twitter followers, we walked away with a monetary reward as well. First place for Best Group Costume went to the Mirkwood Elves. Not too bad for our first cosplay. I’ll use my share of the winnings to have my costume dry-cleaned and fix my broken zipper.

It was so much fun getting to be the Elf King.I have to say, I miss my long, blond hair–and my crown. Now that Kokomo-Con is over, it’s back to selling insurance and writing.

 

The Top Five Best & Worst Things about Being a Writer (with Simpsons References)

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Originally posted on Lit Chic:

lisa

Being a writer isn’t all rainbows and sunshine

We’re all writers here. Whether you’re traditionally published, self-published, or pre-published, if you’re putting words down, you’re a writer by my standards. I think most of us can agree. Some of us are doing it for fun, while others are pursuing it as a full-time career. Regardless, there are many universal truths that pertain to all writers. Today, I’m going to share with you a list of the top five best and worst things about being a writer, according to me and several writers I know. And to make it more fun, I’ll be making references to my favorite episode of The Simpsons, “The Book Job.” Enjoy!

Let’s just start with the worst shall we?

lisa5

Warning: writing may cause fear, insecurity, and self-doubt!

1)Insecurity: This refers not only to financial security and job security, but also emotional security. Writers experience a lot of…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Today, let’s talk about plotting. Before you start laughing maniacally, tapping your fingertips together menacingly, or stroking your cat, I’m referring to plotting your story–not revenge.

Structure

I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan the structure of your story before you write. Planning reduces the time you will spend later cutting and rearranging scenes. Your story consists of a series of scenes and events. You probably have an idea of what is going to happen in your novel, but you may have no idea when. Take those events and put them in a logical order. Think of an event as being a dot on a connect the dot game. Every dot is carefully placed and spaced so that once they are all connected, you get a clear image.

Events and scenes should not be random. There are three things that need to happen in your narrative.

  1. The character decides to take action in order to resolve a conflict
  2. The action
  3. The resolution of the conflict

When planning your plot, you can use whatever method you like. The most popular form of outline is the plot diagram. It should look something like this:

 

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This is a very simple plot diagram. To be honest, it’s a little too simplistic, but it’s a good template when structuring your plot. Without this structure, your plot could look more like this:

classic_bead_maze_rollercoaster

Looking back at the first chart, you’ll notice there are several key plot points: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Exposition: Consider this your setup. The exposition establishes the who, what, when, where, and why. In this early part of your novel, usually the first chapter, you should establish who the leading character is and introduce the conflict. Once you introduce your problem, your character must decide how to take action.

Rising Action: Once you’ve introduced the conflict and your character commits to resolving it, the action should start rising in a series of mini-plots. This is one of the reasons plot diagrams are so inaccurate. They show a straight line to the top. It really should look like the lines you’d see on a heart monitor. Action will naturally rise and fall as ocean waters ebb and flow. Too much dropping action, like a blood sugar drop, will result in saggy-middle syndrome. To avoid the saggy-middle syndrome, every conflict should be worse than the one before. Keep raising the stakes.

Climax: This is the turning point of your story. The climax of your story should not be the result of random events, but the consequence of your character’s actions.

Falling Action: These are the events that wrap up the plot. Tie up loose ends and satisfy your audience. This is not the time to introduce a new conflict (e.g.,The Scouring of the Shire), or introduce new characters.

Denouement: Plain and simply, this is the end.

Rule of Thumb:

  • Do not introduce a new character in the last 10,000 words of your writing.
  • Endings do not always have to be happy.
  • Do not use a Deus Ex Machina to resolve conflict.

Side Plots

The main dish is so much better with a side dish. Likewise, your plot is complimented by side plots. A side plot is the same as the main plot, only smaller. It’s like comparing a king size Snicker bar with a fun size. They have the same ingredients; they are just a different scale. Side plots follow the same structure as the main plot. Like side characters, don’t let the subplot take over the main plot. They should enhance, not distract.

Why have side plots

  • They lengthen your novel
  • They add complexity
  • They carry the theme
  • They develop characters
  • They keep readers interested
  • They offer relief from the main plot

Avoid Plot Holes

What is a plot hole? Simply an inconsistency in your storyline. Something that can’t be explained or believed.

How to identify them

  • motivation or events that can’t be explained
  • inconsistencies
  • contradictions

Some examples of plot holes:

Edward Scissor hands: Where was he getting the ice?

Jurassic Park: They spared no expense, except on security and tech support.

Harry Potter: Can go back in time. Only uses time travel once to save himself and stepfather. Could have used it again to stop the main conflict.

Frozen: What did Elsa eat in her frozen palace? How does ice magic make living snowmen, change a crown braid to a french braid, and completely change an outfit? Only Anna knows about Han’s treachery, but all the townspeople applaud when she punches him.

Toy Story: Buzz believes he is a real space ranger; however, when Andy enters the room, he goes motionless like all the other toys.

The Lord of the Rings: Arguably the eagles. Why didn’t they fly them the entire way. Floating around the internet is a great defense for why the eagles could not in fact take them the entire way, but I’m listing this one because Tolkien didn’t make it clear in his book.

There you have it, a little bit of information about plot to help you plot your . . . plot. Like a road map, a plot diagram will help guide your story in the right direction. Make sure to include those pivotal plot points in your planning, and watch out for plot holes!

 

 

 

What Stage of Writing are You in?

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imagesCAIA0UMKFor the next several months, I’ll be focusing on editing, both on my blog and in my free time. Well, it was free time before it became editing time. That doesn’t mean I won’t still be writing when I get a chance.

Even though my sister and I are twins, we aren’t on the same stage of writing. She’s in the final editing stage and I’m still writing the CFD (crappy first draft). I may have crawled, talked, and walked first, but she’s ahead of me where it really matters.

I’ve noticed many of you are in different stages as you blog about writing, editing, cover reveals, and releases. Whether you’re starting the first draft or finishing the final edits, all of these stages lead to the same goal. Please take a moment to share where you are at with your fellow writers . . . or editors or drafters, or planners.